Why Open Education and Open Educational Resources (OER)?
“Textbook prices are only part of the access barrier issue. As teaching and learning shift fully online during the COVID-19 pandemic, educators have been forced to more closely consider and analyze how copyright restrictions set by publishers may limit their students’ access to these essential learning materials.”
Read more: What’s “Open” During COVID-19? In a Global Pandemic OER and Open Access Matter More than Ever by Lindsey Gumb, Fellow, Open Education
In her 2019 keynote at the Open Education Global Conference, Cheryl-Ann Hodgkinson-Williams of the University of Cape Town in South Africa defined “open education” as an umbrella term that encompasses the products, practices and communities associated with this work. The common term that represents the products of Open Education is OER (Open Educational Resources). OER are teaching, learning, and research materials in any medium that reside in the public domain or have been released under an open license that permits no-cost access, adaptation, and redistribution by others. OER can be print or digital. Click here to access the OER Starter Kit to learn more about the fundamentals of OER.
An open license permits users of a resource to participate in the 5R activities of OER:
- Retain: Make, own, and control your own copy of content
- Reuse: Use the content as-is
- Revise: Adapt, adjust, modify, improve, or alter the content
- Remix: Combine the original or revised content with other OER to create something new
- Redistribute: Share your copies of the original content, revisions or remixes with others
The vast majority of open textbooks have a Creative Commons license that allows for editing, adapting and making derivatives. Learn more about Creative Commons licenses here.
An open textbook is just like a traditional textbook in terms of content, but it has a license that makes it free for anyone to access, redistribute and retain in perpetuity, and in many cases revise and remix the content to make a customized copy. The author, or the copyright holder, gives you explicit permission to use an open textbook just by giving it an open license.
Like OER, inclusive access models aim to ensure that all students have access to their learning materials on day one of class, but the cost is rolled into their tuition (OER is free). Students lose access to these materials after the semester ends because of copyright restrictions and license agreements between the publisher and the institution. True OER, in contrast, allow students to retain their learning content in perpetuity, serving students and learners of all ages and stages. This is important for students who may have to retake a course or who are enrolled in a sequence (ex. Biology I and Biology II), where having access to the previous semester's book is essential.
While the Open Ed community emerged to address the rising cost of textbooks, practitioners quickly realized that openly licensed materials allow for innovative, learner-centric pedagogies. Educators are engaging their students in content creation and seeing the impact of their learning through this "open pedagogy." Even in the Open Ed community, the term Open pedagogy takes on several different definitions depending on who you ask. To learn more about what several practitioners are doing and how they define it, check out the Open Pedagogy Notebook.
The 2020 application period for the Open Textbook Pilot program is now open. The Open Textbooks Pilot program supports projects at U.S. institutions of higher education that create new open textbooks and
expand the use of open textbooks in courses that are part of a degree-granting program, particularly those with high enrollments. The program is funded by Congress and administered by the U.S. Department of Education through the Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education (FIPSE).
- Applications are due November 16, 2020 (60 days from now). Applications can be submitted according to the Common Instructions specified in the Notice. Awards will be made by the end of the year.
- Eligible applicants are institutions of higher education (as defined) and state higher education agencies. Applicants must form a consortium consisting of at least three institutions of higher education and meet additional requirements specified in the Notice.
- Applicants may request a budget of up to $2 million for a period of up to 36 months. With approximately $6 million available, the Department expects to award 3-12 grants between $500,000 and $2,000,000. There is no matching funds requirement, and unfunded proposals from this round may be considered for future awards.
- Grants are awarded on a competitive basis according to their score. The evaluation criteria is outlined in the Notice, along with priorities and requirements.
Use SUNY’s OER search tool, OASIS (Openly Available Sources Integrated Search) to locate openly licensed content such as textbooks, TED Talks, teaching resources, course modules, interactive simulations, and more. OASIS currently searches open content from 97 different sources and contains 385,629 records.
You can also search OASIS by subject.
Connect with Practitioners
Listservs are some of the best tools to directly connect with practitioners and seek help with specific questions in Open Education. Common daily thread topics discuss licensing nuances, existence and availability of particular disciplinary OER, announcements of newly created OER and professional development opportunities. There are several free-to-join, but some are restricted to members only.
- LibOER Discussion Group: Run by the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition (SPARC), this listserv is a vibrant community of practice for academic library professionals and allied stakeholders interested in open education. Free to join.
- Creative Commons Open Education Platform:
- Open Education Network (OEN): Run by the OEN, formally the Open Textbook Network, this listserv is an active and extremely helpful community of practice for practitioners whose institutions or systems are members of OEN. Membership is required to sign up.